Initially developed as an anesthetic or pain reliever in the 1950s and 1960s, Ketamine was first approved for use in humans by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1970 and has been studied for use against depression since that time, especially in the last 10 or 12 years. And there are now extensive studies showing that, used correctly by a medical professional, ketamine is a safe and effective treatment for depression.
People ask me why certain people might be strong candidates for Ketamine treatment. I usually explain to them what treatment resistant depression is a form of depression that has not responded to standard treatment approaches with medications such as SSRIs and talk therapy.
The most common antidepressant medications, such as SSRIs, work by changing the level of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. These chemicals are linked to mood and feelings of well-being. However, ketamine works in several different ways, including by altering glutamate, which plays a crucial role in “cell signaling”.
You see, ketamine treats depression with a different mechanism of action than standard protocols. Ketamine also appears to treat depression in several ways. Research indicates that ketamine binds to NMDA receptors in the brain, producing a neurotransmitter called glutamate and leading to the release of molecules that help neurons communicate. This process, called synaptogenesis, has been shown to improve mood and cognition. Ketamine might also reduce signals in the brain that are affected by inflammation.
It’s important to know that there are a few different ways to treat people for depression with ketamine, including IV Infusion, IM Injection, Lozenges and Nasal Spray. Nasal sprays and lozenges don’t provide the same high level of control that IV infusions do, which is one of the reasons they’re considered the most popular and effective method of treatment. Nasal sprays and lozenges can be taken at home, which can provide a serious convenience factor for patients.
Ketamine can also be helpful in treating a long list of conditions, including chronic pain such as migraines, Crohn’s Disease, Fibromyalgia and Lyme Disease. It can also be used for procedural sedation and alcohol withdrawal management.
When used correctly, ketamine has a positive side effect profile, although like almost all medications, there are reported side effects. In the case of ketamine, they include isolated reports of people experiencing tremors, nervousness, chest pains and paranoia.
People who are interested in being treated with ketamine for depression should only see a qualified medical professional.
The cost of ketamine treatment, and whether it is covered by insurance, depends on the condition being treated, provider, location, dose, and duration of infusion.